Fun & Games

Catalogues for language teachers usually have a section on games, quite a bit smaller than the section on how to teach the….. IO pronouns, subjunctive, tenses, cases, voices, clauses, and on and on. Nevertheless, it is a section many teachers turn to.

Similarly, at conferences where there are exhibitors, the exhibitor/vendor who promises games has a big crowd. This in the face of teachers who complain that students only want games, aren’t serious, don’t learn “their” grammar, and so on. My guess is: these are the same people.

On the one hand, they want the students to learn grammar rules so they can speak and write accurately; on the other hand, they are tired of bored-out-of-their-skulls, uncomprehending students who continue using the infinitive of the verb with a subject pronoun no matter how many worksheets on the topic they have “gone over” and “done”.

To me, games are a sign of defeat, a recognition that our subject is boring and impossible to understand for most students, so we want to use games to give everyone at least one positive day in the course of an otherwise dreary round of explanations of reflexive verbs.

One reason I am blogging this instead of putting it on one of the Listservs is because I know it would elicit quite a bit of outrage. People seem to think comments like this are directed right at them. No, I have in mind the countless teachers I have listened to and read on those Lists, teachers who complain exactly as I have described.

The purpose of a game in a fl class should be to take the learners? minds of the forms of the language and onto meaning so that the forms will be stored for retrieval in spontaneous speech rather than just being available for “monitor? use. If it’s not serving that purpose, the game is just a distraction and possibly a waste of time.

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